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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, April 30, 2009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Roy Gulick, Howard Fineman, Chris Cillizza, John Dean, Michael




KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will be you talking about tomorrow?

Swine H1N1 flu: No reason to panic.  Just because last night the president said you shouldn‘t get on any plane if you‘re feeling fluish and then this morning the vice president said you just shouldn‘t get on any plane.


VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES:  I wouldn‘t go anywhere in confined places now.  It‘s not just going to Mexico, it‘s you‘re in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft.


OLBERMANN:  The political fallout and a little calm talk from an expert on the media panic over what appears to be not much worse than your average flu outbreak.

Rebranding the GOP: It unveils “The National Council for a New America.”  Good idea.  Remind everybody how you F‘ed-up the old America.

Condoleezza Rice explains—al Qaeda has been a greater threat to the U.S. than was Nazi Germany.  Also, she tells students at Stanford, she didn‘t authorize torture, she merely forwarded on the authorization for torture.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FMR. U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  I didn‘t authorize anything.  I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization subject to the Justice Department‘s clearance.


RICE:  That‘s what I did.


OLBERMANN:  Our special guest, John Dean, who says that statement by Dr. Rice just happens to be her admission to the crime of conspiracy.

Bad timing: Miss California joins an anti-gay marriage political group, just as the Miss California pageant directors reveals she not only got breast implants, but they paid for them.  Performance-enhancing drugs?


CARRIE PREJEAN, MISS CALIFORNIA:  I have no comment for that.  Next question.


OLBERMANN:  And another gift from the gods.  Bill O‘Reilly does a webcast.


BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  O‘Reilly.  (INAUDIBLE).  O‘Reilly, (INAUDIBLE) you‘re selling out.


OLBERMANN:  Now, who can argue with that?

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s OK.  It‘s really not your fault.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

The media overreaction to the H1N1 virus, swine flu, sufficient enough tonight for a network television medical expert to say on air that the media was overreacting and so would be any American school that closed its doors without clear evidence that one of its students had been affected.  On the other hand this morning, the vice president the United States said, “I wouldn‘t go anywhere in confine the places right now.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Politicians, panic or the swine flu

which is the most hazardous to your health?


Vice President Biden on “THE TODAY SHOW” first defending the Obama administration‘s decision not to close this country‘s border with Mexico.  Then this .


MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS:  Let me ask this.  And this is by no means a gotcha type of question, I promise.  But if a member of your family came to you .


LAUER:  No, Mr. Vice President—if a member of your family came to you and said, “Look, I want to go on a commercial airliner to Mexico and back within the next week,” would you think it‘s a good idea?

BIDEN:  I would tell members of my family—and I have—I wouldn‘t go anywhere in confined places now.  It‘s not just going to Mexico, it‘s you‘re in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft.  That‘s me.

I would not be, at this point, if I—if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway.  So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation.  If you‘re out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that‘s one thing.  If you‘re in a closed aircraft .

LAUER:  Right.

BIDEN:  . or a closed container, a closed car, a closed classroom, it‘s a different thing.


OLBERMANN:  He did not add: hold your breath until next Tuesday.

Within two hours, the White House released this statement from the vice president‘s spokesperson, which reads in part, “The advice he, the vice president, is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving to all Americans, that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico.  If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways.  This is the advice the vice president has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week.”

The secretary of homeland security is offering the same interpretation of Mr. Biden‘s intent, quoting, “I think the vice president, if he could say that over again, he would say, ‘If they‘re feeling sick, they should stay off the public transit or confined spaces because that this is indeed the advice that we‘re giving.”

Criticism of Mr. Biden‘s remarks by the travel industry unsurprisingly swift, from an American Airline spokesman, by way of example, “To suggest that people not fly at this stage of things is a broad brush stroke bordering on fear-mongering.”

Let the de-mongering begin.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  If you feel sick, if you are exhibiting symptoms, flu-like symptoms—coughing, sneezing, runny nose—that you should take precautions, that you should limit your travel.  And I think he just—what he said and what he meant to say.

I understand what he said and I‘m telling you what he meant to say. 

Which was that .



OLBERMANN:  And at the Department of Homeland Security news conference this afternoon, the question raised again: Are all modes of transportation safe?  The answer was: yes.

Let‘s call in our own Howard Fineman, also, a senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for “Newsweek” magazine and not wearing a mask.

Good evening, Howard.



OLBERMANN:  In the context of commentators asking if this was actually a bio-terror attack and the “Associated Press” reporter kicking off that news conference last night, asking if we maybe should close the border with Mexico, if the president considered it.  What the vice president said wasn‘t that much of a gaffe.  On the other hand, it was the vice president.

What‘s the reaction been in Washington?

FINEMAN:  Well, part of the reaction is eye-rolling and there goes Joe Biden again.  And we know Joe, and that‘s what he does.  He‘s not a loose canon, sometimes, he‘s a whole flotilla.  But, this was serious, because it had potential economic effects and it sort of amped up, as you said, this sort of semi-paranoia that‘s already abroad and in the land.

And there‘s a lot of backing and filling first by the vice president‘s office.  That wasn‘t adequate.  That was a modified, limited hangout, as they used to say in the old Nixon days, and it required, basically, the HHS, the CDC, the DOT and Robert Gibbs to set the story straight.  So, it was taken seriously.  It wasn‘t a funny matter.

OLBERMANN:  One death in this country, and tragic as it was, technically it was not that of an American citizen.  But in a paranoid time, is there a limit to the success of efforts to correct what the vice president said?

FINEMAN:  Well, they certainly, in the administration, tried hard to correct it and swiftly.  The first statement wasn‘t adequate to the task, but they did have Ray LaHood of DOT, they did have Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security, they had Robert Gibbs out there being laughed at any press room even as he tried to correct the record.  Gibbs said to me later, he said, “Look, this was a teachable moment.”

But it‘s not the kind of teachable moment that the administration wished it had to take time for today.  They got a lot of other stuff going on.

OLBERMANN:  The president was the first public official to go out there and say, as he did last night, “Don‘t get on public transportation if you have these certain flu-like symptoms.”  Now the vice president is taking it further, presumably further than he intended to or was supposed to intend to—what is this sense of possible political overreaction, for the most noble of reasons, and you‘d rather have that than the other kind of reaction, but if it‘s piled on top of media overreaction—I mean, FOX used the graphic last night that read, “New Black Death, question mark.”

Things gotten out of hand in the media and in the press conferences more than they have in terms of medically?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think it seems like at times, a closed loop between a political establishment and the media to the detriment perhaps of the American people, who are all keeping their kids home from school.  I don‘t know that it‘s necessarily wise for the president to have gone out there and sort of act like he was in an episode of “Grey‘s Anatomy.”  And Joe you know, Joe Biden took it a step beyond that this morning with—and didn‘t have the ability to be exact in his language about it.

I think the other problem here, Keith, is that the administration has been focused on economics, rightly so.  There‘s a hang-up in a lot of the confirmation and appointment of administration staff, including a lot of people in the health care end of things.  HHS secretary only confirmed yesterday.  No surgeon general, no head of the FDA, who by the way, Dr.  Margaret Hamburg, who had been New York City health commissioner, be the superb person to be out there talking about this.

I don‘t know that the president and the vice president should have gotten involved at this level, because that in and of itself amps up the sense of crisis.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, the president last night tried to medicate the country and also fix our car engines for us.  It was kind of a busy night for him.


OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC .

FINEMAN:  Yes, it was.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you as always, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The CDC‘s official count of U.S. cases of swine flu, H1N1, has topped 100 for the first time.  It‘s across 17 states.  Fort Worth, Texas, has become the first major city school district close.  It did so today.  But most people in this country who have gotten ill have recovered.

The World Health Organization is calling the flu by it‘s new name, influenza A H1N1, reports 236 cases worldwide and that is across 11 nations.

Joining us now, the chief of infectious diseases at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Roy Gulick.

Thank you for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Before we talk—precautions.  Give me a little context on this.  I mean, right now, assuming the thing does not mutate and become more virulent than it is right now, that what we know about it still is true next week, next month, next year—isn‘t this surprisingly similar to seasonal flu outbreaks, in any way (ph) right now?

GULICK:  It‘s very much like the flu that we see every year.  Flu is a common viral illness.  It causes symptoms in people that tend to resolve over seven days.  It‘s transmitted easily from person to person, and some people forget the flu can be a very severe illness.  That is 36,000 people in the U.S. die every year from flu-related complications.

Now, many of those people are either the very young, less than two years, or the elderly, over 65, or people with chronic conditions, such as heart disease or pulmonary disease.  But flu is a major killer in any year.  What‘s different about this flu, the swine flu, is that it‘s a new virus.


GULICK:  And so, so essentially no one has immunity to this virus because we simply haven‘t seen this virus before.  But the epidemic, as we‘re looking at it right now, looks very much like an outbreak of seasonal flu.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a point at which you say—all right, we‘re probably in a safe zone here, and we don‘t have to worry about this becoming suddenly so virulent that it would kill more than the average of 100 people a day who die from flu or complications of ordinary flu?

GULICK:  Well, I think what‘s raised the concern about the swine flu is that the fact in Mexico, that over 150 people have died, and that struck people.  And we didn‘t really know how many people were infected.  In fact, we still don‘t today.  More than 2,000 cases are suspected and it maybe many, many more.

OLBERMANN:  And the assumption on that, as I understand it from my friends in the medical profession, is this: that that‘s a very—it originated near a corporate farming pig farm operation in one of the poorest parts of Mexico, where people are not likely to have the money to seek immediate medical care.  And by the time anyone got any attention early on the stages of this, as it spread, it was too late for them.  That this—any kind of flu can be fatal if untreated, and that perhaps, that‘s why that was such a heavy, fatal yield in Mexico.  Is that the assumption of this?

GULICK:  Well, we really don‘t know.


GULICK:  We don‘t know all the answers.  Another theory is simply that many, many more thousands of people have been infected with the flu, and what we‘re seeing is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the deaths.

OLBERMANN:  The precautions on this, I would assume that there were people who heard what Vice President Biden said today.  They said, “Oh, that sounds pretty good to me.  I‘m not getting in a plane, I‘m not getting to a subway, I‘m not getting in a car with strangers, I don‘t know.”  Do we have to go to that sort of extreme or anywhere close to that?

GULICK:  No, we‘re not.  And I think people knees to use common sense.  I think the most important this is—if you‘re sick, if you have the flu, don‘t go to work, don‘t go to school, don‘t ride public transportation.  Stay home.  Take care of yourself.

And for people who are coughing or sneezing, use tissues.  Wash your hands frequently.  These are common things we should be doing with every flu outbreak and this one is no exception.

OLBERMANN:  Based on what the president said last night, what the vice president said last night, a lot of the media coverage.  I refer to Tim Johnson saying on ABC tonight he thought there had been media overreaction to it.  Would you think that we have sort of picked this up and run with it to a greater degree than we should have?

GULICK:  Well, I think people do need to know what the facts are.  And one thing that I‘ve been impressed with is that things can change day to day.  So, I think it‘s important that the word is out there, but people need to know what to do to protect themselves.  And the fact that we‘re talking about it and saying this is not really all that different than the average flu outbreak, most people who have had the swine flu are actually getting better.  And most people have had by far the most, have had mild disease.

As you said, there‘s been one death here in the country, and it was a young child who had an underlying medical condition.

OLBERMANN:  And who had presumably contract it‘d before he came to this country, too.

GULICK:  Possibly.

OLBERMANN:  Possibly.  Yes.

GULICK:  Again, I don‘t think we know for sure.

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Roy Gulick, the chief of infectious diseases at New York Presbyterian Hospital—thanks for coming in.  We appreciate the perspective.

GULICK:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  And the common sense here.

The key to H1N1, of course, in the future is its unpredictability.  That‘s true for politics, too, especially oddly, the politics of prosecuting torture.  For better or worse, each time President Obama seems to give the Bush administration the chance to wiggle out from the grave responsibilities and recriminations of torture, somebody from that administration tries to wiggle back in.  When a student at Stanford University claimed the Nazis were the greatest threat America ever faced, the former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, interrupted and said that the Nazis never attacked the American mainland and al Qaeda did.  The Nazis, she implied, were not a great threat as al Qaeda.

And, oh, by the way, according to our guest, John Dean, regarding torture, Dr. Rice admitted to her part in a criminal conspiracy.  Oops!


OLBERMANN:  Rebranding the Republicans.  Bright, fresh ideas from John McCain and Mitt Romney?  Condoleezza Rice not only insists al Qaeda was worse than the Nazis, but she may have also admitted to criminal conspiracy on tape.  John Dean analyzes.

And the congresswoman who called the story of why hate crime victim Matthew Shepard was murdered a, quote, “hoax,” has today made it worse.

Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Just two days after the defection of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, the Republicans‘ rebound has begun.  In our fourth story:

The new plan to—as Texas Senator Cornyn put it the other day—regain its status as a national party.  House Republican Whip Eric Cantor and other top Republicans today are announcing the formation of the National Council for a New America.  A response apparently to polls showing more and more Americans approve of the direction of the current America.

The council‘s agenda does not include classic vote-getters such as gay or immigrant bashing or even abortion, instead it promises, quote, “To build a stronger country through common sense ideas.”  Common sense ideas it will get from experts.  The group now, quote, “gathering the expertise of national leaders and doers.”

Who are these leaders and doers reinventing the Republican Party?  Former Republican Chairman Haley Barbour; current Bush, Jeb Bush; current Bush want-to be, Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana and mocker of volcano monitoring; Mitt Romney, who‘s vaguely reminiscent of his late father, Michigan Governor George Romney; and, of course, John McCain, who already reinvented the Republican Party just a year ago into smaller form.

Left out, current GOP chair, Michael Steele, who bragged today that he has already transformed the GOP‘s historic big tent into a hat.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  The four of us are—let‘s say for the sake of this example, all wearing a hat that says GOP, all right?  You‘re from the West, you‘re from the Midwest, your from the South, I‘m from the Northeast.  You wear your hat one way, you like to wear, it you know kind of cocked to the left.


STEELE:  Yes, you know, that‘s cool out west.


STEELE:  In the Midwest, you guys like to wear west, in the west you wear it to the right.


STEELE:  In the South, you guys wear it with the brim straight ahead.  Now, the northeast, I wear my hat backwards.  You know, because that‘s how we roll in the Northeast.  So, but what do you recognize?  We all are wearing the hat that says GOP.


OLBERMANN:  His problem, as they said in “Monty Python‘s The Meaning of Life,” people are not wearing enough hats.

And then there‘s the mysterious case of Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who blamed the ironically named Club for Growth, an anti-tax group, for pushing Specter out.  And then, through a GOP campaign group he helps lead, began new robocalls targeting Specter—because he once associated with a Republican.


ANNOUNCER:  We wanted to make sure that we properly introduced him to you.  Former President George W. Bush said this about Arlen Specter.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  I‘m here to say it as plainly as I can: Arlen Specter is the right man for the United States Senate.  I can count on this man—see, that‘s important.  He‘s a firm ally.


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s try to sort this out with Chris Cillizza, White House reporter of “The Washington Post,” the man who broke the Specter defection story.

Thanks for joining us, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, where to begin?  The Republicans are making robocalls against Specter, but the calls are intended for Pennsylvania Democrats, specifically those who are voting in the Democratic primary.  I‘m really confused.  What kind of—who is—what do they want somebody do—what do they want who to do in this case?

CILLIZZA:  This is very Machiavellian.  Look, Keith, there‘s two parts to this.  One part is plain vindictiveness.  They‘re not happy with the fact that Arlen Specter left the party, obviously, and they want to make life, at least in the short term, a little uncomfortable for him.

The other part is a strategy that has worked on a smaller scale in the past.  In 2000, in the New York Long Island area, a guy named Michael Forbes left the Republican Party, became a Democrat.  The Republican Party attacked him by supporting him, essentially saying here‘s something you might not know about Mike Forbes.  He supports assault weapons.  He votes against the assault weapons ban.

What wound up happening?  An elderly librarian named Regina Seltzer won the Democratic primary and Republicans picked up the seat.  Now, Arlen Specter is not Michael Forbes, but I think that‘s the blueprint that they‘re trying to use.



CILLIZZA:  You don‘t sound convinced.

OLBERAMNN:  Well, I just—it is—it‘s so labyrinthine, I don‘t know that anybody could—who reached that conclusion could repeat it twice.  In other words, who was involved in making up this plan could actually say, “Well, OK, that‘s what the plans for, OK, repeat what the plans for,” and I don‘t think they could come up with the same answer, it‘s so complex.

But let me ask you about this new thing, the National Council for a New America.  Is this when like—when they did not like “Old Europe”?  I mean, why do Republicans hate “Old America”?

CILLIZZA:  You know, I actually think, Keith, I‘ll sound a note of disagreement.  I actually think this is not the worst thing Republicans have ever done.  Look at our—“The Washington Post” poll, they are very close to rock bottom at this point.  Twenty-one percent of people in “The Washington Post” poll are self-identified as Republicans.  It‘s the lowest number since 1983 in our poll.

You have Arlen Specter switching parties this week.  It doesn‘t get any lower than this.  I don‘t thinks it‘s a terrible idea to try and get out into the country, though, as you pointed out and this would be pointed out many times by Democrats—Haley Barbour, John McCain, Mitt Romney, these are not new faces—Jeb Bush—these are not new faces.

Does that mean they can‘t push new ideas?  No.  But it does speak to the leadership vacuum that exists in the Republican Party at the moment.

OLBERMANN:  In excluding social issues from the National Council for a New America agenda, are we seeing maybe two kinds of splits within the GOP -- not only big and broad versus small and pure—but also fiscal conservative versus social conservative?  Or are those, in some way, the same conflict?

CILLIZZA:  I think it‘s a similar conflict though I think you‘ve got the right idea, Keith.  I do think that you are seeing a split.  You‘re seeing—what this National Council for a New America, you could essentially call it the establishment wing of the Republican Party and not be too off.  Eric Cantor, the House minority leader, who is the guy who started this group, said we‘ve invited everyone.

But the truth of the matter is, the people who were announced on the front end are establishment Republican types.  People who weren‘t announced: Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Mark Sanford—now, all these people are national leaders of a sort, but they‘re much more movement conservatives than they are establishment conservatives.

And I think the socialist issues thing you‘re on to something too, Keith—I‘ll just reference it very quickly, “Washington Post” poll, 49 percent of people in our most recent poll now favor legalizing gay marriage.  That‘s—in three years ago, there was 36 percent.  The trend is not moving the right direction for social conservatives.

OLBERMANN:  And the next poll you have you to ask, if people are not wearing enough hats.


OLBERMANN:  Because Michael Steele needs to know this right now.

CILLIZZA:  I have many hats.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Chris Cillizza, among his hats, White House reporter of “The Washington Post” and author of “The Fix” at—as ever, thanks, Chris.

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So last year, it was Governor Palin against the back drop

of a turkey-killing machine.  And now, what is she sitting on?  Is that a -

is that a dead—no!


And in Bests, Billo, the webcaster guess the location of his own office wrong.  We‘ll go to the maps when COUNTDOWN continues.


OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And it turns out Bill O‘Reilly is lost, literally.

First, this is April 30th, thus eight days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for a military families charity; thus seven days since I offered to donate $1,000 per second that he lasted; thus, five days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise.  Perhaps, I should have started with something that did not terrify him, like a dunk tank.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Alaska where Governor Sarah Palin‘s state celebrates 50 years in the union.  To commemorate the anniversary, the governor invited the boys from the TV show, “Orange County Chopper,” to build an Alaska-themed bike.  Before we air a clip from the show, recall that the famous turkey interview that the governor gave before Thanksgiving last year, you might remember after the interview, the Palin people said they were not pleased with the backdrop which makes the setting for this interview a little curious.  Here is it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you snowmobile?

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA:  Oh, yes.  Snow machine.


PALIN:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What kind of a snowmobile have you got?

PALIN:  We got an Arctic Cat, we got a couple of different kinds, different race machines.


OLBERMANN:  It‘s a bear chair.  Not a full stuffed bear, just a chair draped with the skin and head of a dead animal.  What you can‘t see in that picture is that her feet were resting on an ottoman.  (LAUGHTER)

To the cat walk, where for years, we‘ve been cataloging the epic struggling between beautiful people and the ability to fancy walk—a fancy pageant walking.  A bruising battle between the models and the law of gravity.  Unfortunately, tonight, Sir Isaac Newton has claimed another victim.

From the interweb, we think it‘s in Brazil, watch as this lady makes her way down the runway.  You think the black square in the middle of the runway might be her downfall.  No, she dodges that, plays to the crowd, and then—yoink!  Mugging for the fans will get you every last time.

Condoleezza Rice suggests al Qaeda was or is more of a threat than the Nazis were.  And, by the way, John Dean thinks she has just admitted to criminal conspiracy.  Well, big day for her.  He joins us next.

And then Miss California pads her resume, joins an anti-gay marriage group just as the pageant reveals it put up the money so she could pad something else.

These stories ahead, but first time for “Countdown‘s” top three best persons in the world.  Number three, best explanation for total confusion.  Bill-o has started online web chats.  Not that kind.  Anyway, I think we figured out something that‘s wrong with him - everything that‘s wrong with him.  He‘s lost.  Not metaphorically, I mean geographically, he‘s actually lost. 


BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I am on the 17th floor on the Avenue of the Americas in New York City.  This is Rockefeller Center.  Right across the lane is NBC, who we don‘t like.  And it‘s pretty interesting that they‘re on one side of the street.   We‘re on the other, of course, looking down there on the left side of the street. 


OLBERMANN:  OK.  Here‘s the problem.  Let‘s go to the maps.  This is the standard cartographic view of New York City, avenues up and down, streets across, going up the map in ascending order.  It‘s just as he describes it, Fox, there, your lower left-hand corner.  Down from the intersection of 48th street, NBC, just up from the intersection at 49th street.  Traffic flow is uptown, as indicated by the red arrow. 

The problem is obvious.  Fox is, in fact, on the left side of the street.  NBC is on the right side of the street.  You tell a cab driver in New York, going up the Avenue of the Americas, let me off on the left side, where NBC is, he‘s never going to stop.  And you‘re going to wind up with a fare on the meter of just over a million dollars. 

Now, let‘s look at this second map, that slightly skewed bill from Bill-O‘s office.  There again, not only is Fox still on the left side of the avenue.  But it‘s also on the left side of 48th street.  And there we are, NBC, on the right side.  Well, there you have it.  Bill has no idea where he is.  Come on, boy, this city is perfect for you.  The streets are consecutively numbered.  By the way, only tourists say Avenue of the Americas.  We New Yorkers call it Sixth Avenue. 

Number two, best defense, an unnamed marching band baturn—in English, that is a baton twirler, from Courts Hill California. As she walked to school, a 17-year-old was grabbed by two men who tried to rob her.  So, she hit the first guy in the nose, then kicked the second one in the groin, then hit both of them with the baton, repeatedly.  Then they ran away. 

Number one, best community uprising.  A bully in Castwick High School (ph) in Ontario, Canada shouted anti-Asian slurs at, and threw a punch at a 15-year-old fellow student, whom he did not realize was a karate black belt.  The Asian victim broke the bully‘s nose with one punch.  The victim was promptly suspended and arrested.  The victim‘s family, fearful of more anti-Asian hate, was ready to move out.

Then an amazing thing happened, 400 of the kids‘ fellow students all dressed alike, many carrying signs supporting him and denouncing racism and bullying, walked out of school in protest.  Police are reconsidering which one to charge in that case. 


OLBERMANN:  Condoleezza Rice was the secretary state of the United States.  She was the national security adviser to the president of the United States.  And yet, in our number three story tonight, it is sadly no longer surprising how much she can get wrong in the span of about five minutes, taking questions from university students.  And, oh, by the way, in the process, may have also admitted to a crime. 

The clip from this Monday is up on Youtube.  We lacked the time to set her straight on everything she got wrong.  But the World Trade Center towers, they had 110 stories, madam, not 80.  But we will take on two narratives she tried to advance from historic and present day.  First, in justifying what she will not call torture, Ms. Rice appeared to suggest that al Qaeda was the greatest threat the United States of America has ever faced. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Even in World War II, as we faced Nazi Germany, probably the greatest threat America has ever faced, even then—

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE:  With all due respect, Nazi Germany never attacked the homeland of the United States. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, but they—they harmed our allies. 

RICE:  Just a second; 3,000 Americans died in the Twin Towers and in the Pentagon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Five hundred thousand died in World War II. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We did not torture the prisoners of war.

RICE:  And we didn‘t torture anybody here, either. 


OLBERMANN:  Forget that Germany‘s ally did attack the homeland, and that the Nazis overran Europe and much of Asia and had an unquestioned program to develop actual nuclear weapons, and the inter-continental missiles that would drop them on this country, and were doing so as early as 1943.  If the criteria for water boarding is attack on the homeland, what, then, Ms. Rice of the Civil War, when Confederate troops attacked Maryland and Pennsylvania and Lincoln did not water board?  What of the Revolutionary War, when British troops killed more than 3,000 Americans, and Washington did not water board.

What, Dr. Rice, of the War of 1812, when British troops burned much of Washington, D.C. to the ground and Madison did not water board.

But Ms. Rice hurt her case even more rhetorically by invoking kind of Nixonian defense, the one that went, if the president does it, it‘s not illegal, and legally, by admitting, as Nixon‘s White House counsel will momentarily explain, to a crime in conveying Mr. Bush‘s authorization thereof. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is water boarding torture. 

RICE:  The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture.  So, that‘s—and, by the way, I didn‘t authorize anything.  I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency.  And so, by definition, if it was authorized, by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. 


OLBERMANN:  Returning to our program, once again, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, also, of course, author of “Broken Government” and “Worse Than Watergate.”  Welcome back, sir. 


OLBERMANN:  You can explain what Dr. Rice just probably unintentionally admitted to there? 

DEAN:  Well, it‘s quite surprising.  She clearly admitted she‘s not an attorney, because she wouldn‘t have made the statement she made.  She was trying to say she hadn‘t authorized anything.  Then she proceeded to say that she, indeed, passed orders along to the CIA to engage in torture, if it was legal by the standard of the Department of Justice. 

This really puts her right in the middle of a common plan, as it‘s known in international law, or a conspiracy, as it is known in American law.  And this, indeed, is a crime, if it indeed happened the way we think it did happen. 

OLBERMANN:  Was this more the Nixon/Frost defense, or was she trying to say that President Bush only authorized methods that were already legal and, since that included water boarding, therefore, working backwards, water boarding must have been legal? 

DEAN:  Well, it‘s a little fuzzy what she was saying and she was obviously trying to extricate herself and keep herself at a safe distance that she was only operating under some general guidance of the president making things legal.  So, it‘s not clear whether this is a full-throated Nixonian type defense, Keith, or whether it‘s a lot of confusion of the facts, and just throwing things up there to try to protect herself. 

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately, though, I mean, Dr. Rice, or Secretary Rumsfeld or Vice President Cheney or all of them, singing as a, you know, a barber shop trio, could sit there and say, yes, we signed and we conveyed all kinds of authorizations regarding water boarding.  Does it matter at all, if they had been put above the law by the subsequent president and the subsequent Congress? 

DEAN:  Well, you know, it may not matter as it turns out in the United States.  But, I‘ve got to tell you, I think it is going to matter what they say, and how they say it, and when they say it abroad, because there are, indeed, investigations going on.  We had news yesterday that Judge Garzone in Spain is, indeed, proceeding with an investigation and inquiry there.  He‘s not announced any specific names but he is certainly looking at these. 

These kinds of statements are going to come back and be very interesting to any investigator. 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to overstate this point or put too fine a point on it, either.  But if President Obama says water boarding was torture, which is what he said last night at the news conference—there was no equivocation about that—is he not admitting now he, in a sense, that he, too, is in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the obligations to investigate and prosecute torture, because that‘s the part we never seem to remember about the Geneva Conventions.  The second part says, if there is evidence of it in your country, you, the leaders of that country, are supposed to do something about it, at least in terms of an investigation? 

DEAN:  That‘s very true, Keith.  And, indeed, he is, indeed, in violation, if the United States does not undertake investigation of this or ultimately prosecution, if that‘s necessary.  It‘s not only the Geneva Convention.  The Convention Against Torture, also, requires this. 

There are no exceptions with torture.  There are no real things like torture light.  The world community, I think, is going to hold the United States responsible and if we don‘t proceed, somebody is going to proceed. 

OLBERMANN:  John, you saw the president‘s answers on those questions about torture and water boarding, and did the previous administration authorize it and engage it, and did they break international law in doing so.  He seemed to—to give all the elements out of which you would make a yes to that question without ever saying yes.  Do you think there is a possibility he‘s doing this deliberately to hope there is a greater groundswell for prosecution of this in this country?  Or what was the nature of that kind of what certainly sounded like hair-splitting from here? 

DEAN:  Well, it is interesting.  The “New York Times” poll just earlier this week came out that 62 percent of the American people do not think there should be investigations and prosecutions of torture.  So there is not a broad public support for this, this idea of proceeding in any way against these people.  So that might well be what he‘s doing.  And he clearly does want to avoid the political consequences of this, and any blow back that occurs from any investigation he might undertake. 

So, I think he‘s going slowly, which is appropriate.  And he has given it to his attorney general, who is going to make ultimate decision. 

OLBERMANN:  John Dean, author of “Worse Than Watergate,” and “Broken Government,” always of great help in trying to understand this subject.  Thank you, John.  All the best. 

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of bizarre confluences, Miss California joins an anti-gay marriage group just as the California pageant directors revealed they paid so she could have a little something extra at the Miss USA contest, breast implants. 

Worsts, Congresswoman Foxx with a non-apology apology.  Blaming the media for her unconscionable claim that the motive for the homo phobic murder of Matthew Shepard was a, quote, hoax.  When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard.


OLBERMANN:  Miss California embellishes her portfolio with membership in a political group fighting gay marriage, while the Miss California pageant committee admits it paid for her to embellish her portfolio in an entirely different way, if you know what I mean.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Bill-O the clown.  This webcast I mentioned earlier, gold mine.  No makeup, comb-over not reinforced, nobody reigning him in.  Fabulous, thank you, Bill.  Here is Bill on the first 100 days of the Obama presidency. 


O‘REILLY:  He wants to give health care to people who can‘t afford it, for whatever reason.  Some of these people could afford it if they‘d stop drinking, you know, a quart of Gin every day. 


OLBERMANN:  There it is, what Bill-O really thinks of the folks.

Our runner-up tonight, Karl Rove, another op-ed in the Murdoch Street Journal, during which Rove pulls off the most dishonest thing you can do in a newspaper, or, as Murdoch also did this on Fox, on television.  “Now Mr.  Obama,” Rove writes, “is asking, as he did in a townhall meeting last month, why not do a universal health care system, like the European countries?  Maybe because he was elected by intimating that would be extreme?”

Except Mr. Obama did not ask that.  Richard in California asked it.  In the online townhall on March 26th, Obama read it and answered it, pointed to it, and read it and answered it. 


OBAMA:  Now, the question is, if you‘re going to fix it, why not do a universal health care system like the European countries. 


OLBERMANN:  Obama then answered the guy‘s question by saying we can‘t do it like the European countries.  Congratulations, Mr. Rove.  Anybody can be a scum of the Earth in one thing like politics, but it takes a man of super genius to be the scum of the Earth of politics and then in journalism.   

But our winner, again, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.  She is now blaming her remarks, before the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill by the House, on ABC News.  She called the story that Shepard was beaten, his skull fractured, then tied to a fence post for 18 hours and left to die, because his murderers knew he was gay, a, quote, hoax. 

The congresswoman now calls that choice of words poor and offers the standard insincere apology.  Quote, “I am especially sorry if his grieving family was offended by my statement.”  You are either sorry or not, Congresswoman.  The burden does not lie on if somebody else was offended.  “I was referring to a 2004 ABC News “20/20” report on Mr. Shepard‘s death. 

ABC‘s “20/20” report questioned the motivation of those responsible for Mr.  Shepard‘s death.  Referencing this media account may have been a mistake, but it was a mistake based on what I believed were reliable accounts.” 

The girlfriends of the two murderers testified at their trials that the men had plotted beforehand to rob a gay man and were not under the influence of drugs at the time.  In the ABC report, though, one of the women said she had lied under oath just to enhance the murderers‘ gay panic defense.  Also, the murderers suddenly claimed they had been high on Meth for a week. 

However, several interviewees also insisted to ABC that one of the murderers had known Matthew Shepard socially and known he was gay.  Congresswoman Foxx apparently didn‘t see that part of the report. 

Congresswoman, you are digging yourself in deeper.  Apologize, sincerely this time, or resign.  Get out and take your myopic view of the world with you.  Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  After going rogue at the Miss USA Pageant, Miss California Carrie Prejean was enjoying her new title as self-appointed champion of opposite marriage.  Pageant officials are now retaliating.  They‘ve outed her for having breast implants.  Our number one story, Miss California now being accused of using performance enhancers. 

The good news is this increases her chance of dating Alex Rodriguez someday.  The Miss California organization‘s co-executive director Shanna Mokler (ph) claiming that not only did Miss Prejean get breast implants, but that the Miss California Organization paid for them. 

“Breast implants in pageants is not a rarity.  It‘s very common.  I don‘t personally have them,” she said, “but, you know, they are.”  Adding a little saline to that wound, Miss California USA pageant officials also released this statement, “we are deeply saddened Carrie Prejean has forgotten her platform of the Special Olympics, her commitment to all Californians, and solidified her legacy as one that goes beyond the right to voice her beliefs, and instead reveals her opportunistic agenda.”

Today, Miss Prejean, head held high, while channeling her inner and partly silicone Anita Bryant, joining forces with the National Organization for Marriage‘s campaign against same sex marriage.  After being praised for choosing truth over a tiara, Miss Prejean was asked about the implant imbroglio. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How do you respond to the personal attacks that the Miss California Organization is going against you, going on “Access Hollywood” and talking about, you know, breast implants? 

CARRIE PREJEAN, MISS CALIFORNIA:  I have no comment to that.  Next question? 


OLBERMANN:  Looking for a cue card?  Joining me now, columnist for the “Village Voice,” and author of “La Dolce Musto,” Michael Musto.  Good evening, Michael. 


OLBERMANN:  No, all I said was good evening. 

MUSTO:  Oh. 

OLBERMANN:  There it is there, Miss California is opposed to same-sex marriage, which is at least marriage between two human beings, but she has fully endorsed now marriage between a man and a woman who is partially made out of plastic. 

MUSTO:  She is dumb and twisted.  She‘s sort of like a human Barbie Doll.  You tell Perez Hilton you are against gay marriage.  That‘s like telling Simon Cowell you‘re against screeching a show tune.  This is the kind of girl who sits on the TV and watches the sofa.  You know, she thinks innuendo is a Italian suppository. 

Can I keep going?  On the pageants now, they really should have easier questions, like what is your middle name or what show was Seinfeld on.  This girl is a ding-dong.  I didn‘t even like her earrings. 

OLBERMANN:  The cruelest cut of all.  The outcomes here, too; Perez Hilton looks like an intellectual titan and some sort of civil rights leader.  And the new poster girl against same-sex marriage is not just a boob, but a fake boob.  This is a real win for this cause, is it not? 

MUSTO:  Perez is the new me, let‘s leave him alone.  And using the C word is something I would do.  But yes, Carrie Prejean, however you say it, she is getting something off her chest.  But what she really needs to get off is the price tag there.  In the meantime, she‘s ratcheting up so much sympathy for the gay movement, she might as well be a paid spokeswoman for her.  I‘d say dethrone her, but we couldn‘t even get rid of Bush, couldn‘t impeach him for international war crimes.  We are supposed to get rid of an beauty contestant for having falsies and an opinion? 

Let her deflate, as it were, and just let her keep going.  Eventually, she‘ll just be looking for a husband who only wants the virgin in the world with breast implants. 

OLBERMANN:  The morale in this is what, never cross a beauty pageant official who knows you have implants? 

MUSTO:  Yes, exactly, that‘s it.  This has escalated to a public shaving.  What Kokler has left out, Keith, is they also paid for Carrie to cut off her penis, and sand her Adam‘s Apple and get a head to toe waxing.  I know for a fact that Carrie Prejean was Harry Prejean, a homophobic man, who liked marriage so much, he did it three times.  Now he‘s a babe who needs a brain implant.  Maybe they could inject some fat from her butt.  Oh, they have? 

OLBERMANN:  Kind of lost in this, Michael, this claim by Shanna Mokler, who herself was Miss USA, was in “Playboy,” that implants are commonplace in pageants.  I mean, Congress went crazy over artificial performance enhancements in baseball.  Should there not be Congressional hearings into this, as well? 

MUSTO:  Wait, you are telling me a lot of beauty contestants are fake? 

Oh, next, you‘re going to tell me their personalities are artificial, too.  Yes, I think there should be Congressional hearings into this.  Congress should wash their hands with Purell, get together in a big enclosed room, and decide how all this is like baseball.  When I look at Carrie Prejean, I think of basketball, don‘t you? 

OLBERMANN:  Maybe—maybe softball.  You said personality, personality—there is no personality in this, is there, in these pageants? 

MUSTO:  No, I said a brain implant.  There‘s no talent.  There‘s no personality.  There‘s just parading down the runway like a ding dong, trying to cure cancer and find the right handbag to match her navel.  It‘s so obsolete, it has to be stopped.  But I watch it every year. 

OLBERMANN:  There it is, your guilty pleasure.  The one and only Michael Musto of the “Village Voice,” as always, good to talk to you, Michael. 

MUSTO:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,182nd day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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